Hyper-personalized, algorithmic music services promise to deliver the exact music you want, exactly when you want it. But radio, with its illusion of serendipity and its DJ-driven commentary, is a collective sound; millions of people could be hearing the exact same thing at once. It becomes a soundtrack to your life. It can also be a fast track back to your past, as WIRED senior writer Jason Parham recently discovered.

Jason grew up in Los Angeles in the early 1990’s, “when the rage of Black Los Angeles hit a tipping point,” as he describes it. He was six years old when the Rodney King riots overtook his neighborhood. This summer, when demonstrators marched by the apartment where he now lives in Brooklyn, chanting, “I can’t breathe,” it all felt too familiar to him. As the world seemingly spiraled into crisis after crisis, he wanted to remind himself that he’d been there before. So he began searching YouTube for archives of 1990’s radio shows.

That’s how Jason discovered Jean-Gabriel Prats, a Frenchmen and former radio disc jockey who restores snippets of old radio and publishes the archives to YouTube. In this week’s episode of the Get WIRED podcast, Jason talks to Prats about these small acts of remembrance, and how they encourage us to “slow down, to take a breath, and to look back, again and again”—and how this gives him a sense of peace.

He also talks to Jace Clayton, a New York-based cultural critic, DJ, and author of the book Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture. They talk about the music culture we experience today—the algorithmic wormholes we fall into—and what it all means for radio; the community of it, the openness of it, and the fundamental idea that a personality or team of personalities would at one time bring us together through a shared moment of sound.

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